Cancer Deaths Down, Especially for Black Men
In two decades, overall cancer death rates have decreased by 20 percent, with the most significant drop for middle-aged African-American men.
By Jessica Firger
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TUESDAY, January 7, 2014 —The American Cancer Society's annual report of the state of cancer in the United States provides heartening news: Over the last two decades — from 1991 to 2010 — cancer death rates have decreased by 20 percent.
The best news, and the biggest change, was among African American men ages 40 to 49. Cancer mortality among this group declined by almost 50 percent in 20 years.
The authors attribute this trend to improved screening rates, changes in diet and exercise habits, and declining use of cigarettes.
However, the finding about African American men only serves to highlight persistent racial disparity in cancer. In the United States, black men continue to have the highest cancer incidence rate of any group.
The 20-page report "Cancer Statistics, 2014," published in the CA: A Cancer Journal For Clinicians, drew on existing data from the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as well as on records from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Among the key findings:
- The drop in cancer death rates from 1991 to 2010 translates to 1,340,400 cancer deaths averted (952,700 among men and 387,700 among women).
- Between 2006 and 2010, cancer incidence rates went down slightly in men but remained stable for women; death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year in men and by 1.4 percent per year in women.
- There was no decline in the cancer death rate among white women age 80 and older.
- A total of 1,665,540 new cancer cases and 585,720 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States in 2014.
- Prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancer will continue to make up the majority of cancers diagnosed this year in the United States, according to the ACS.
The Never-Ending War on Cancer
While experts agree many of the findings in this report are promising, we still have a ways to go when it comes to winning the war on cancer.
"Just because we aren’t where we’d like to be doesn’t mean that we haven’t made progress," said Brenda Edward, MD, division of cancer control and population sciences at the National Cancer Institute. "Over quite a number of times from 1975 to the '90s we were seeing increases in cancer rates. We’ve been able to turn those rates around through a lot of effort with risk reduction and screening."
"It does seem to me that we have been able to make some impact but we’re not where we want to be," added Dr. Edward.
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